Matt James stepped up to make the most of his connection with Rachael Kirkconnell — after she stepped up to take ownership over the concerning sorority scandal of her past.
The former Bachelor leading man, and the woman who won his season of the reality TV competition show, are the focus of James’ new memoir, First Impressions: Off-Screen Conversations With a Bachelor on Race, Family, and Forgiveness, which is set for publication in May.
And in a pre-released excerpt of the book first shared by Cosmopolitan on Wednesday, Matt lays out exactly what happened after cameras stopped filming and the anger over Rachael’s old antebellum plantation-themed party pictures subsided.
James’ excerpt picks up in rural Georgia in early 2021, where he recalls how Kirkconnell called him while she was staying with family, and he was traveling, to warn Matt of the coming racist pictures. At first, James didn’t think the scandal was going to be as significant as it was, writing that he tried to downplay it for her in private:
“She mentioned that some things about her past had popped up on the web, but I shrugged it off and told her not to worry about it. The Twitter mob would have a new target soon enough. Then the picture dropped.”
Once the photo was leaked on Reddit early last year, and all hell broke loose across social media, Matt explained that Rachael called him “immediately.”
Keen on explaining her side of the story, she apparently tried to put the situation into context for Matt:
“I knew the woman I’d chosen to be with. Celebrity gossip, no matter how sensitive, wouldn’t shape my opinion of her. Her voice on the other end was strained and unsteady. I assured her that I knew who she was.”
Still, the physical distance between them — and having the conversation by phone — proved to be very difficult. Matt recalled how he told Rachael that he needed to see her in person and have a difficult conversation about the quickly-growing controversy before too long:
“I needed to see Rachael’s face for the hard conversation ahead. I hadn’t felt so nervous to see Rachael since handing her the final rose. We’d come a long way, even since then, but there was a formalness to our meeting this time that felt unfamiliar and uneasy.”
So, Matt revealed that the pair retreated to a house “in the middle-of-nowhere Georgia” to talk in person — and in private:
“She and I spent two days together, and then on the third day, we had the hard conversation. I shared how it felt seeing her, a woman I loved, embody a role that had once so antagonized me. My emotions welled up, and she met me at their peak.”
James revealed that their discussions were, as expected, quite difficult. We can only imagine how that must have been — especially knowing the public-facing tensions and stressors felt by other members of Bachelor Nation during this difficult time.
To her credit, he writes that Rachael “leaned forward and dove in” to tell her side of the story. Explaining the sorority situation in full to Matt, they hashed out the tense moments together:
“She’d only been in the sorority a short time; she left the semester following the party. She didn’t know about the context of the party when she chose to attend; it was just another college event in her mind. She didn’t offer her ignorance as an excuse. Just a fact — she paired it with the facts of her remorse and regret. Tears streamed down both our faces. She apologized for the pain I felt. I forgave her.”
Still, following their rural Georgia private conversations, the pair knew they needed to spend some serious time apart. So, they didn’t speak for several weeks, allowing each other space to process the whole thing:
“I needed to slow the train down. We both needed to reflect on the relationship we’d developed, to ask ourselves how deep its roots really reached.”
After Rachael first broke her silence about the sorority scandal with an Instagram apology post in February of 2021, she and Matt decided to begin talking again. Still, as James readily admits in the memoir, he “took advantage” of the uncertain situation and hooked up with former partners while pursuing more of a single life:
“I took advantage of our undefined, gray space and reconnected with former flings… It was a mistake. Rachael got wind and was justifiably hurt and feeling betrayed. After that, there was silence.”
Still, fate had its own way of tipping the deck in the couple’s favor. In April of last year, after weeks apart and significant relationship troubles surrounding them even beyond the racist photo scandal itself, Matt was in Atlanta for an event. Suddenly, on his phone, he received a notification that she was just two blocks away. James wrote:
“Turns out, she hadn’t meant to send the notification at all; she didn’t even know I was in Atlanta. She had just unblocked my contact, which triggered the location sharing to return automatically — a crazy coincidence that felt fated. We met in the parking garage in her car, far from the public eye. We talked for four hours in that car about all of the issues that had kept us apart — her mistakes, my mistakes, insecurities, family drama, public perception, and everything else under the sun. I decided to be better going forward. She had done self-work that I hadn’t reciprocated. I promised her that I was all in.”
But claiming he’s “all in” is definitely a major step forward for the pair, that’s for sure.
And it definitely tracks with our previously-reported timeline of Matt and Rachael’s relationship. Certainly interesting to hear more of the behind-the-scenes info about how it all fell apart (and then got back together).
What do U think of this reveal, Perezcious readers?! Sound OFF with your take on the matter down in the comments (below)…
[Image via Matt James/Instagram]